by: KOIN LOCAL 6 - Protesters blocked the streets at Mt. Tabor over the reservoir closing Friday's demonstration.Police arrested three people protesting the pending closure of the open reservoirs at Mt. Tabor as demonstrations started there Friday evening.

Organizers said they would protest for three days, but wouldn’t camp overnight — at least on Friday.

“Tonight was a good night to declare a victory,” said protest organizer Jessie Sponberg late Friday. “I mean it was an incredible night. Hundreds of people came out here. It blew my expectations away.”

The first to be arrested was Michael Meo, 66. He was charged with criminal trespass for putting up signs against park rules.

The second was arrested at 9:15 p.m. Troy Anthony Thompson, 42, was charged with Interfering with a Police Officer. He was arrested for pitching a tent. Erecting a structure in the park is a violation of park rules.

The third was arrested for refusing to leave the park when it officially closed at midnight.

The arrests are in sharp contrast to how city officials responded to the Occupy Portland protest in Chapman and Lownsdale squares just east of City Hall last year. There, the city allowed hundreds of protesters to post signs and camp in the parks for months. At the time, City Council members said the protesters were expressing their free speech rights.

At one point there were about 10 tents up, but they were taken down.

Despite the arrests, hundreds of other protesters arrived throughout the afternoon and evening to occupy the Southeast Portland landmark overnight in an effort to keep the city from replacing the open reservoirs with underground storage tanks.

Portland city officials closed Mt. Tabor Park to motor vehicles earlier in the day. The park roads are typically closed on Wednesday for maintenance, but they did not re-open Thursday or Friday. Officials with Portland Parks and Recreation would not say when they will re-open.

The road closures meant a long walk to the playground for families toting strollers, toddler and backpacks. Some people felt the city is going overboard by closing the road days before the protest.

“I guess I would ask why we’re cutting off access to a public park even if people are coming here for public protest,” said visitor Billie Tarscio. “It seems access to the park should be important to the city for anyone who’s here for whatever reason.”

Her husband, Michael Tarascio, said, “We have little ones and it’s kind of hard to walk. She’s seven months pregnant and we’re having to walk up a hill with a dog thats pulling and two 6-year-olds, so that’s not great.”

Mark Ross with Portlans Parks & Recreation said he understands the inconvenience.

“I know some people would prefer to drive in with their cars to the top of the volcano. If there was a permit associated with this demonstration maybe that could have been avoided,” Ross said.

The council has approved the closures to comply with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule. Protesters say the reservoirs are safe and oppose the cost of the replacement storage tanks, which will be financed through higher water rates.

City officials plan to disconnect the existing reservoir at Mount Tabor sometime between 2014 and into 2016. New reservoirs would be connected to underground tanks on Powell Butte and Kelly Butte. One of two reservoirs at Washington Park would also be decomissioned.

Portland Tribune reporter Jim Redden contributed to this story.

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